Dad Deserves Final Say in Breastfeeding

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breastfeedingWhen I got pregnant, there were a few things I was absolutely sure of. I was happier than a pig in you-know-what to be pregnant, but a miserable pregnant woman. Oh, and I was going to breastfeed.

My mother breastfed me. She breastfed my brother. And every single finger-licking thing I learned from good old Doc. Google was "do this for your baby!" But as I registered for milk storage baggies and made a personal pledge never to let a pacifier pass her lips, I bypassed the most important talk of my pregnancy: I never asked my husband.

It was a major mistake, and one I can't undo. Yes, ladies, it's your body and they are your boobs. But you're not going to succeed at breastfeeding with a guy who says, "Eh, just get the kid a bottle."

My husband truly acted like a "dad" from the get-go. He cut the cord (despite his faint-inducing fear of blood) and couldn't wait to get his hands on his precious baby girl. He sat and watched lovingly as I tried to breastfeed her in the delivery room, then settled in to hold her, beaming before grudgingly handing her over to my father for his own cuddle action.

But when they wheeled her off to the nursery and wheeled me to our room for the night, he was still acting as my husband. He wanted me to get some sleep. It's a fact I won't and can't begrudge him; he was acting like the man I married, the man who had been putting me first for the past five and a half years.

And as I spiraled into postpartum depression in the days after our daughter's birth, he continued to look at me not as the mother of his child but as his wife. Breastfeeding, he saw, was making my depression worse. With no insurance coverage for a lactation consultant and no money to hire one ourselves, we were going at it alone with the books and the Internet. I was trying desperately to make it work, and feeling increasingly like a failure as nothing I tried worked.

He was watching me slip away, and he threw out a lifeboat. He didn't know it was the wrong one. "Give up," he told me. "Stop this insanity. You are making yourself nuts, and you don't have to do this to yourself." I hated him for it. If even my husband thought I couldn't breastfeed, I knew I must be the world's worst mother.

It's taken a long time for me to let go of an unjust anger. I look back and realize he was doing the best he could. In light of the circumstances, he was making the best choice not just for me but for him and for our daughter. She could live on formula. She couldn't live with a mother who hid in her room crying all day.

I can't undo my depression or the fact that we had crappy insurance. I can't undo that I had no breastfeeding support or even that I eventually gave it up much earlier than I ever intended. But I can undo future pain for other mothers.

Don't do what I do. Don't expect your partner will understand why you plan to breastfeed and don't expect him to be on the same page. He may very well think it's not a big deal. He may just be plain jealous that you get to do all the feedings (in the end, my husband loved that time he spent holding her with a bottle -- it's one of the silver linings in our very dark cloud). Or he may be trying to help you, but just doesn't know how. He didn't go to school at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; you can't expect him to read your mind!

I may still have been forced to give up breastfeeding early -- part of living in the boonies is a lack of good healthcare, and that means good depression resources in addition to the lack of lactation support. But at least he would have known he had to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Have you talked to your partner about your feeding plans yet?


Image via ODHD/Flickr

fathers, emotions, motherhood

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Patricia Rech Pers

Why ask your husband??????? I just decided on my own to do it; the Mom in most cases is the primary caretaker. Your husband sounds caring, but breastfeeding actually alleviates the depression. You release endorphins and your body becomes a calorie burning machine, plus, you are bonding with your baby. I would nurse and nap with my son. Hubby would get crying baby in the wee hours, change him and then bring him to me for feedings. you don't need to ASK your husband for anything. does he ASK your permission for anything???

Dr-Catherine Prann

This is garbage.  Final say?  that is insulting.  It is up to the mother how she wants to feed her child.  It is the job of the father to be supportive of her decision.  It works out best if the father is supportive of breastfeeding, but if he is not, he can shove it for all I care.  Same goes the other way.

knitm... knitmomma

I think this article would have been better titled differently.  I agree if you have ppd you should address the issue but it doesn't mean discontinuing pumping or bfing depnding on the meds you are on.  Husbands have a lot of say in a lot of things and him contributing to YOUR choice is great but using the title you used is inflammatory.  It does not speak of equality, it speaks of submission and domination.  I would never give my husband the "final say" in something so intimate that is so loving and bonding.  I don't disagree with the article but I hate the title.

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